Chasing 136, Kolkata Knight Riders might have thought they sealed the game after an opening partnership of 96 runs. But T20 cricket can change in a couple of overs. The same thing happened in Qualifier 2 held at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. After the 16th over, with KKR needing 13 off 24 balls, Delhi Capitals’ Avesh Khan and Kagiso Rabada scored two brilliant overs to get their team back in the game.
After Khan conceded two runs and took a wicket in the 17th over, Rabada conceded just one wicket in the 18th over to ensure that there would be a turning point in the story of this high-stakes game. Enrique Nortje bowled the 19th over for three runs and KKR needed seven runs from six balls.
While bowling in the last over, when R Ashwin dismissed Shakib Al Hasan for six runs in three balls, it benefited the Capitals. Sunil Narine played Holi on the first ball on the fourth ball of the last over and had to hit a six off two balls. Rahul Tripathi, however, held his nerves and made sure his openers’ scintillating effort didn’t go in vain, hitting Ashwin for a five-ball six to seal a three-wicket win.
KKR will take on Chennai Super Kings in their third final on Friday.
The best time to attack in Sharjah is against the tough new ball. Once it softens, it becomes impossible to get the power behind the shots. KKR handled their powerplay overs very well. And it proved to be the difference that allowed him to make a comeback in the last four overs of the game even after his terrifying performance.
Around 50 is considered a par score in the first six overs at this UAE venue, which is the shortest but most difficult for the batsmen. Capitals were restricted to 38/1 after six overs after KKR decided to bowl first. The Rishabh Pant-led side was never able to get away from a slow start, finishing on 135.
In reply, openers Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer took KKR to 51 for no loss in six overs. It followed them, chasing 85 off 84 balls. The openers made the chase easy with a partnership of 96 runs in 12.2 overs. Iyer was again the catalyst for Purple Brigade’s batting performance with a 41-ball 55 (4×4, 3×6). Gill scored 46 runs in 46 balls.
Rishabh Pant tried five different bowlers in his first five overs but nothing worked against the KKR openers. He gave the new ball to Ashwin and caught Axar Patel when he went for nine runs. The left-arm spinner was also taken for nine runs. Iyer was the attacker. He hit a four off Ashwin and hit Patel for a six. In the fifth over, the southpaw took the courage to down Kagiso Rabada and hit it over long on for his second six.
After five overs, KKR could score 42 runs for no loss. Avesh Khan was also not spared. The first ball of Khan’s second over, in the final of the Powerplay, was hit for a boundary at midwicket. Gill started his innings with a brilliant off-drive off Enrique Nortje but seeing his teammate flourish early, Gill was content to play the second fiddle. After six overs, Iyer made 31 off 20 balls and Gill made 17 off 16.
The run-rate was taken care of, both sensibly relaxed after the ban on the field was lifted. Ashwin and Rabada got five-six runs each in the seventh and eight overs, taking the equation to 69 off 66 balls. Iyer took the first ball of Patel’s 10th over outside the midwicket fence to make the run less than a ball. 75 runs partnership in 9.5 overs Iyer 44 and Gill 26 runs.
Spin Capitals was going to be the best option to counter this. But Ashwin and Patel were brought under control at the 10 overs mark. The off-spinner’s figures read 3-0-20-0 and the left-hander’s 2-0-18-0. Pant fell back to his fast bowler Nortje. But 12 runs in the 11th over did not bring any relief. Iyer completed his half-century in 38 balls off Patel.
It was a day when most things had fallen for KKR. After winning all his matches in the UAE leg, whenever he chased, he got a shot in the arm when captain Eoin Morgan called and fielded correctly at the toss.
All the focus was on their spinners but KKR’s quick pair of Lockie Ferguson and Shivam Mavi did a commendable job. The spin trio of Sunil Narine, Varun Chakraborty and Shakib Al Hasan were their pathetic self again on the dull Sharjah track. It was clear that the DC batsmen had to target the fast bowlers. He didn’t give anything. Mavi finished with figures of 4-0-27-1 and Ferguson returned 4-0-26-1. Had it not been for some big hits in the dying final overs of Shimron Hetmyer and Shreyas Iyer, they would have ended up with even better figures.